Flung Across the Bordeaux Region, The "Côtes" de Bordeaux
Five communes comprise the Côtes de Bordeaux, and they're a curious bunch, geographically speaking. While technically all on Bordeaux's Right Bank, they don't sit together, save Francs and Castillon.
However, the Côtes de Bordeaux do have underlying links that stand in contrast to most consumers' perceptions of Bordeaux: excellent QPR and early approachability. They also share one more trait that seems to get lost in their "Bordeaux-ness": these wines pair well with all sorts of cuisines, in addition to Bordeaux's usual turf-and-surf options. Because the labels usually don't list their grape varieties, many of us tend to save them for French cuisine. But, Sauvignon Blanc works well with just about any salad, and Merlot-Cabernet Franc blends can be crushable with Mexican food! Thinking about these wines in terms of their grape varieties and styles totally opens up their utilities. Santé!
Château Peybonhomme-les-Tours 2017 Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux Blanc Le Blanc Bonhomme 13% $23
A dynamic, 50:50 blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon, these Demeter certified grapes are fermented in 40% new barrels with the rest housed in concrete vats. All of this TLC is accompanied by six months of lees stirring then followed by an early bottling. Once opened, the bottle starts a bit wound-up then gently unfolds over several hours. There's a dynamic combo of cracked white peppercorn spice and mango on the nose followed by a primo example of perfectly (yaaas!) ripe star fruit on the palate with a wee hint of fresh parsley. The palate shows the full-throttle grip and mouth-coating texture of well-concentrated Sémillon. Engaging aromatically and texturally, this wine is definitely intellectual.
Château Carbonneau 2017 Sainte-Foy Côtes de Bordeaux Margot 12.5% $12
Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah, this is a singingly vibrant wine! It chirps of passion fruit, dill and celery. The flavors glide into papaya and spicy pink peppercorn. Fresh and sappy on the palate with zingingly fresh acidity crisply delivering a moderate and minerally finish, this is a screamingvalue that delivers purity and pleasure with an easy-to-enjoy profile. The 5% Sémillon - though surely only because I am looking for it - seems to slip into a waxy tone on the back palate.
Château de Haut Coulon 2015 Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux 14.5% $22
This bold and wide-shouldered red from a generously ripe year smells deliciously of significantly ripe black plums and figs that are starting to crinkle a bit while drying up. It's not too heavy, however, with plenty of back palate verve offering structure through the granular though nicely reserved tannins. Blackberries and oodles of spice rack preside on the palate, easing into a lingering finish with plenty of savory, minerally tones elongating the youthful finish that develops nicely as it sits in the glass. This offers very good mid-term aging potential.
Château Marsau 2015 Francs Côtes de Bordeaux 14.5% $24
From the Chadronnier family, this is a big, bold and concentrated red that tastes fearless!
With some swirling in the glass, the blackberry fruit takes on shades of North African spices, aged tobacco and dried red earth. The full body is framed by bulky, chunky tannins and highlighted by well-balanced, moderating acidity. The alcohol is a bit pungent on the medium finish. This is a nuanced wine with a rustic edge that will surely defy time. It's lovely now, but there's no need to rush to enjoy it.
Château Ampélia 2015 Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux 14.5% $16
A blend of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc, this is an expansive blend on the palate that supports an impressive amount of ripeness and dry extract. It's a rich wine that is plentiful in fruit yet reserved in oak impressions. The acidity is mild and integrated, just as the tannins are harmonious and rounded. It's drinking well now and with its evident smells of fallen autumn leaves and barbecue sauce, it is clearly time to drink this up. As the wine opens, there is a marked sense of balsamic vinegar that expands on the nose.